Best CPUs for Custom Android Tablets Q4 2020

Since the explosion of Android tablets started almost 10 years ago several CPU (central processor unit) manufacturers have come and gone.  In the beginning high profit and high volume drew companies into the space, but as the volume of Wi-Fi Android tablets dropped and competition grew a few clear leaders have emerged.  Those leaders include Rockchip, Mediatek (which also makes CPUs for telecom tablets and smartphones), and Allwinner Tech.  These companies all make chips based on the ARM architecture, so many of their chips compete head to head and are fairly similar in spec and performance.

To keep it simple this article will focus on Rockchip since Hatch routinely uses their CPUs.  The main reason we use more Rockchip is due to flexible customizations (important when making custom Android devices), engineering support, and because we have stronger relationships with Rockchip engineers.  The other companies also make high quality Android CPUs that work for custom projects and we are supportive of using them if our customer requests.

The list below provides information about the leading Rockchip CPUs that are recommended for use in custom Android Wi-Fi devices in order of performance, from high to low end.


The RK3399Pro is called a ‘server level’ CPU.  It’s mainly intended for use in applications that demand high performance such as an Edge AI server, industrial applications, client-side facial recognition, and others of this nature.

The CPU contains 6 (hexa) ARM cores, consisting of 2 Cortex-A72 (1.8GHz) and 4 Cortex-A53 (1.5GHz), a NEON coprocessor, Mali T864 GPU, and an NPU.  It can run multiple learning platforms such as Caffe and Tensor Flow.  The RK3399Pro supports multiple display outputs up to 4k resolution and multiple camera inputs up to 13MP. It also has native support for USB type-C protocol.

(Before the RK3399Pro came the RK3399.  The RK3399Pro is the RK3399 with the integration of the RK1808 IC.  The RK1808 provides the NPU (neural network processor unit) mentioned above.)



The RK3288 is a high end Android CPU that features excellent display support and strong processing power.  This chip is used in a range of consumer, business, and industrial devices.  Many large screen advertising displays use this chip.  Applications include live video streaming with add-on electronics (like temperature sensor), laptops, and access control terminals.

The CPU contains 4 (quad) ARM Cortex-A17 cores that deliver speed up to 1.8GHz and a Mali T764 GPU.  It supports up to 4k display resolution, dual display output, and dual camera up to 13MP (with internal ISP).



The RK3368 is similar to the RK3288 with slightly lower specs. It still offers excellent multimedia features and does a great job in high level consumer or business applications. The RK3368 is commonly used for educational tablets, TV boxes, advertising displays, and premium tablets.

This CPU has an 8 (octacore) architecture with 8 Cortex-A53 cores that run up to 1.5GHz. It supports up to 4k video HDMI output powered by a PowerVR G6110 GPU. The internal ISP supports 1080p recording and up to 8MP images.



The RK3326 is a mid-range CPU that has become popular with devices like retail tablets and smart speakers that have moderate performance requirements and need the newest technologies. The chip is a step up from the RK3128 in that it provides faster processing speed and an internal ISP for image processing.

This CPU has a 4 (quad) core Cortex-A35 processor that runs up to 1.5GHz. The Mali-G31MP2 GPU delivers video output up to 1080p resolution. The internal ISP supports video up to 1080p resolution and images up to 8MP.



The RK3128 is the entry level CPU intended for mass market consumer level devices. Its high volume ensures stable functionality and reliable performance in tablets and TV boxes for lower resolution displays. It’s a solid option for custom Android devices that need long battery life with limited functionality.

This CPU has 4 (quad) Cortex-A7 cores running up to 1.2GHz. It integrates a Mali-400MP2 GPU that provides video output up to 1080p resolution. The CPU also supports cameras with recording up to 1080p and images up to 5MP.

Some CPUs have multiple versions that offer slightly different features.  For example, the RK3128 and RK3126c are exactly the same CPU, but only the RK3128 has HDMI connectivity and supports DDR2.  For products that don’t leverage the full features of a CPU using the ‘cost down’ version (like the RK3126c) saves cost on the BOM (bill of materials).  Once the requirements of a product are clearly defined with a client Hatch will help to accurately identify the most suitable chip to use.

Next-Gen Low Cost Android Tablet Chipsets

Low Cost Chipsets

Allwinner vs. Rockchip

These new low-cost chipsets have allowed manufacturers to produce smartphones at record low prices and it has opened up a whole host of opportunities for other low-cost smart devices.

As component prices fall and technology improves, we are beginning to see more and smarter products at very affordable prices.

IC (integrated circuit) companies, OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers)  and retailers alike are all pushing for higher performance in their low-end product lines, and this is being made possible because of the drop in component prices.

IC companies are beginning to make a real impact by releasing new SoC’s (System on a Chip) that are very powerful yet inexpensive and have lower power consumption. 

These new low-cost chipsets have allowed manufacturers to produce smartphones at record low prices and it has opened up a whole host of opportunities for other low-cost smart devices.

Too many companies in the Android market the IC chipset or SoC is the linchpin within the supply chain. It is fundamentally the brain of any product.

Further, its performance and price dictate the type of smart device that can be created. As low cost /high-performance SoC’s are released we see a more significant shift in the market.

Manufacturers are for the first time being able to create much lower cost higher performance smart products.

Benchmark Testing

In September we saw the release of two comparable, low priced SoC’s from two of the top Chinese IC companies, Allwinner and Rockchip.

Only one month after their official release’s OEM’s launched tablet solutions powered by these chipsets.

Hatch performed key benchmark testing for samples of both chipsets, the A23 from Allwinner and RK3026 from Rockchip.

On paper the main difference when looking at a direct comparison is the CPU architecture:

  • Rockchip is using the newer more powerful ARM® Cortex™-A9 architecture and is clocking a frequency of 1GHz, whereas
  • Allwinner has the power efficient ARM® Cortex™-A7 clocking at 1.5GHz.

They have both chosen to use the same GPU, ARM Mali-400 MP2 Dual Core graphics engines, making a head-to-head performance test all the more interesting.

Allwinner has far higher on-chip integration because of MIPI DSI meaning there are more components on the SoC so developers can have fewer system components.

A higher on-chip integration allows for lower production costs and a more stable and efficient PCBA board. Rockchip, on the other hand, has potential cost-saving benefits with Pin to Pin compatible with the single core RK2926. 

It means that manufacturers will not have to change the PCBA layout to accommodate the newer chipset. 

It will be attractive for existing developers as upgrading from previous PCBA designs to the dual core will be less expensive and faster to market.

The results of the benchmarking made a clear distinction between the seemingly similar SoC’s. 

Here’s what we found:


Antutu Benchmarks

Looking at the Antutu Benchmark scores, it is clear that the A23 has outperformed the RK3026.

This is due to a number of key differences in their design. First, the Allwinner clock speed has a 50% premium on the Rockchip which instantly makes a difference in performance.

You might say that as the Rockchip has used the more powerful ARM® Cortex™-A9 architecture this performance difference will balance out, but the CPU architecture isn’t the only factor at play when gauging performance.

Allwinner has invested in optimizing the A23 SoC’s system design allowing for better performance and more efficiency. 

Also, DDR and GPU design enhancements have been made within the SOC that has positively affected the performance. 

Further, the A23 utilizes a low power output specifically with audio and video playback at 50mA due to the use of the more efficient ARM ® Cortex™-A7 architecture. We think this will certainly be attractive for developers entering into the tablet space. 

This being said what makes the RK3026 still stand out as a top SoC for developers is the 2G communication support allowing for cellular-wireless connectivity in next generation budget tablets and low-cost smartphones. But as of this month, Allwinner will release the A23 with 2.75G connectivity.

We will have to wait and see which solution comes out on top, but some industry experts believe the A23 has more specific peripheral communication interfaces.

This advantage in communication interfaces could gain A23 more industry support than the RK3026. 

Looking at the unit price they are fairly comparable but the RK3026 PCBA cost has a slight advantage of being cheaper by 2-3%.

As this is marginal, we don’t think it will affect a developers decision, but it could make a difference.

After reviewing the two SoC’s it’s clear that we are seeing two great, aggressively priced consumer level platforms. 

Choosing between the two really depends on your application. If you want a more powerful, more efficient SOC, go with the A23.  

However, if you are looking for a smoother transition when upgrading from the single core RK2926, then the dual core RK3026 is the right SOC for you.